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Street vendors demand protection

Fight for right to earn livelihood on the footpaths of Meghalaya

Our Correspondent   |   Shilong   |   Published 24.12.16, 12:00 AM

National Federation of Hawkers general secretary Saktiman Ghosh addresses street vendors in Shillong on Friday. Telegraph picture

Shillong, Dec. 23: Phoska Sangriang, a flower vendor in the bustling Khyndai Lad area, questioned the rationale behind providing car parking avenues to the haves while have-nots like her, who are forced to earn their livelihood on the streets, have to run helter-skelter in search of a place to sell their products.

There are many street vendors like Sangriang, who are facing a harrowing time because of the alleged delay in providing vending zones as mandated by the Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014.

Street vendors, most of them women, have been repeatedly asking the state government to implement the central law to protect their livelihood.

On November 11, the East Khasi Hills deputy commissioner had informed that in compliance with the Meghalaya High Court's order, the district administration and other authorities would oversee that the main roads and footpaths were hawker-free. The hawkers were advised to vacate the same, failing which legal proceedings would be initiated against them.

Last week, for five days in a row, they had demonstrated near the office of the Shillong Municipal Board and boycotted application forms issued to them by the state-government-constituted Town Vending Committee (TVC) for registration as hawkers.

They alleged that the committee, which is mandated to cover both municipal and non-municipal areas, was unconstitutional and illegal and had no representation among the hawkers. They refused to collect or fill in the application forms.

The street vendors have also rejected the Meghalaya Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, terming it anti-hawker. Earlier this month, the Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association and Thma U Rangli-Juki (TUR), a social organisation, had filed a writ petition challenging its constitutionality.

Today, several street vendors, under the banner of the association and supported by TUR, gathered near the Golf Course here.

The general secretary of the National Federation of Hawkers, Saktiman Ghosh, addressed them on their rights to earn a livelihood.

"Street vendors can be relocated but not evicted. The Town Vending Committee has to conduct a detailed survey, and, thereafter, issue certificates to the street vendors. This will be followed by an identification of vending and no-vending zones. The municipal body needs to issue identity cards to the vendors," Ghosh said. He also suggested that some areas like Khyndailad be declared no-vehicle zones.

At present, there are around four crore street vendors in the country who generate a turnover of around Rs 8,000 crore per day, Ghosh said. The National Federation of Hawkers comprises 1,182 associations and unions of street vendors from 28 states.

Ghosh said the federation was planning to hold its meeting in Shillong February-March next year.

So far, the Meghalaya and Greater Shillong Progressive Hawkers and Street Vendors Association has received around 1,100 membership applications from vendors. It also plans to call a meeting of stakeholders to draft a master plan for beautification of Shillong.

"It will be a people's master plan," TUR leader Angela Rangad said.

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